Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Diet and Exercise

The good news is that I'm home.

The bad news is that there is a scale at home.

The really bad news is that I got on the scale this morning.

The really, really bad news is that I gained 15 pounds while I was away. Yup, I ate my way through Cambridge and Boston, and now my favorite jeans are uncomfortable.

So, it's back to low carb, high protein, low fat, portion control, everything in moderation diet. You know. The way I'm supposed to eat.

Oh, and an hour of exercise a day - something else I didn't do when I was in Cambridge. I walked. A lot. But, I never really broke a sweat.

So, I "jogged" for 30 minutes this morning on my exercise trampoline and then did another 15 minutes of weight resistance and exercises that target the . . . um. . . "problem areas" on my body.

Let's just say that, with my Portuguese heritage, I am a woman with "a lot behind her".

I just cleaned out my cupboard of all the snacks I'm going to be off for the summer - kettle corn, potato chips, cookies (I love Oreo Cookies and Pecan Sandies and for some reason that defies all reason and logic, those really cheap vanilla creme wafers), nuts, chocolate (Ugh, my heart is breaking!) and - yes - even a whole box of those amazing Drum Stick Ice Cream Cones.

Someone at the local food pantry is going to be Very Happy. I threw in some cans of soup and some unopened boxes of cereal, too.

I'm off to the market now to get some fresh fruit and veggies, eggs, and fish. I'm off chicken and beef - just a preference, is all. No processed food. No sugar. No starches.

Oh, and lots of sparkling water, and lots of fresh lemon and lime. That will help when what I really want is a proper summer G&T - which I'll allow myself to have once or twice a week. You know. So I don't feel totally deprived.

If the Weight Loss Goddess is on my side, I'll be back in my favorite jeans by August 1. That's my goal, anyway.

I find that keeping a daily diary helps - writing down everything I've had for the day and keeping track so on those days I'm planning to have a proper G&T I can factor that in.

I've also found that the exercise is absolutely essential to weight loss. In fact, I've discovered that no diet works well without it. Fortunately, the summer sunshine helps to keep me motivated. That, and my jeans. And, my bathing suit.

So, I'm motivated and committed to get back into shape. I've lived long enough to know that I'll never look like I did when I was 25. That is just not going to happen. I'm pretty realistic about that.

I just want to look good - and feel good - in my clothes again.

I don't regret having eaten my way through Cambridge and Boston. Nope. Not one morsel. It was, every bit of it, totally delicious.

I am disappointed that I couldn't find a gym in the Boston area that was affordable, but it actually feels pretty good to get back into a routine again.

When it gets a little cooler this afternoon (It's been in the high 90s - a Heat Advisory is in effect until 8 PM tonight), I may even get my bike out of the shed, fill up the tires with air, and put some WD40 on the chains (No gears. It's an old fashioned Schwinn.) I have an old fashioned basket on the front and may even take 'er out for a ride tonight down to Massey's Landing.

There's something magical about being on a bike that makes me feel like I'm nine years old again and able to conquer the world.

When I was a kid, my mother used to let me go grocery shopping on my bike.  I would get milk and eggs and bread and whatever else she needed, paying for them carefully with the dollar bills and coins I had rolled into the shopping list and tucked into my sock, load them up in the basket on the front of my bike, and ride like the wind all the way home.

I would love to hear my mother say, "Well, that was fast!"

You bet it was! I was the absolute Queen of Schwinn. I could even out-ride most of the boys in my neighborhood.

I only hope I'm able to say "Well, that was fast!" come August 1st after I've lost these 15 extra pounds.

"Fast" will happen, soon enough.

It always does.

One day at a time.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Monuments and Memories

I suppose I was like any other kid who thought that graveyards were spooky places. Well, at night and during Halloween, anyway.

On Memorial Day, however, cemeteries were places where we had a picnic lunch and my grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and cousins would tell us stories about our relatives who were buried there.

My grandparents made sure we knew about their parents and grandparents and other relatives who were buried in the church graveyard back in Portugal or the Azores - and a few uncles who were in the Navy or were fishermen who had lost their lives and were buried at sea.

My father, being a WWII vet, would make sure to place American flags or red poppies at the gravesides of some of his buddies who had died. He was always very solemn as he knelt in front of the gravestone, said a prayer and then placed the flag or a red paper poppy by the stone as he saluted his fallen brothers.

He was always scrupulous about the order: God before State. Church before Government. Prayer before Salute.

Then, the stories were told, which also had a certain order.

"He was a good man. A brave soldier. I remember the time when we were kids when..... . ." The stories were often funny... a human foible, a mistake of mischief, a silly joke, a prank. We would giggle and he would hope we didn't see him wipe a tear from his eye as he looked away, off into the distance.

I remember being fascinated by the story of my Uncle Auggie who had died in a factory explosion at the age of nineteen. He was my grandparents' eldest child, their first born son, who had been working in the factory since he was sixteen. He had just married - a young girl of seventeen.... Lorraine? - and they had an infant son who had been named after his dad.

My family's sadness was deepened by the fact that Uncle Auggie's wife had broken off all ties with her in-laws and had never let her son be part of our lives. I suppose that was one of the ways she dealt with her grief. She was only seventeen or eighteen, a widow with an infant son. She was young and wanted to get on with her life. I suppose she thought the way to do that was to leave the past behind.

That was blasphemy in my family. The past was part of what made you whole. Made you who you are today. Helped to make who you would become.

At one point in the day, my grandmother would go over to her son's grave. Alone. She would be there for a long while. Talking. Everyone knew not to go near that graveside while my grandmother was there. It was unbearably sad.

My favorite part of the day was when my grandmother would tell us the story of how she left home and her trip on the "Very Big Boat" that took her from Portugal to America when she was thirteen years old. How she came with just a small bag of clothes and her guitar. How a few of the sailors made "comments" to her and she got so scared she didn't come out of her room for days. How she got sea sick and wretched violently for most of the trip.

And then she would take out her guitar and sing a fado - a mournful, soulful Portuguese folk song about fate and destiny, the sea and the plight of the poor. My grandfather was very proud of her beautiful voice and expert playing - as were we all - even though it was, until recently, against the law in Portugal for a woman to sing fado.

All the grandchildren thought she was so brave and courageous and bold. She was our brave hero with the voice of a very angel.

My grandfather could see the admiration in our eyes, so, not to be outdone, he told stories about being part of the Portuguese Navy at age sixteen, and the storms that would come up at sea, and how he NEVER got sick.

Well, DUH, we thought, he was a man. He wasn't supposed to get sick. And, besides, our grandmother was only thirteen years old. And, a girl. That gave her extra points of admiration, even among my male cousins. Of course, we never said that to his face, but we all thought it and admired our grandmother even more intensely.

Later in the day, we would reenact the stories we had been told. Admittedly, my grandfather's stories made for more dramatic scenes, so we ended up playing roles in the Portuguese Navy during terrible storms.

I would pretend to be my grandmother and get seasick so I had to lay down in the cool of the shade of the trees while I listened to my grandmother sing fado.

There aren't too many "modern" cemeteries with trees anymore. I don't see too many families who linger long there, much less have picnics. Maybe it's just fallen out of fashion. Maybe it's because there aren't any trees or open areas any more.

Last Saturday, I went with some friends to Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Boston. It's the place where Mary Baker Eddy is laid to rest and where they, themselves, have purchased their graves. Ms. Eddy, of course, is the founder of Christian Science.

Like many people in the Greater Boston Area, my friends often go to Mt. Auburn Cemetery to bird watch. In fact, the Audubon Society has 'bird tours' through this beautifully landscaped cemetery which, I understand, are quite informative and thoroughly enjoyable.

There are also tours of the various grave sites of famous people and one tour I took when I was in seminary and would love to take again which explained the meaning of the various styles of tombstones and grave markers.

Beyond white marble crosses, there are veiled urns and angels - some with trumpets, or Madonnas with veiled faces, and open books or bibles. I'm always fascinated by the family plots with wrought iron fences and locked gates.

There is one gravestone at Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plains that always takes my breath away every time I see it. It is the carved marble gravestone of a little boy in a boat. The engraving is in French, erected by his mother, Mme. Louis Hellium Mieusset for her fils bien aime (well-beloved son), Louis Ernest Mieusset

The carving on the stone reveals that the boy was only four years old when he drowned in a boating accident one beautiful summer day on a lake nearby. Here's a piece of the fascinating story:
On September 26, 1886, while in a small boat near the shore of a little pond, Louis noticed his pet rabbit running along the bank. Wishing to bring the rabbit with him, he tried to reach for his pet, but lost his balance and fell out of the boat and drowned. It is this last moment of life that Mme. Louis Hellium Mieusset chose to commemorate in her son's last resting place in Forest Hills Cemetery.

Also erected with the monument was a marble bench with a moveable drawer (since removed), where the grieving mother could come to clean the glass, polish its brass fitting, place flowers, and do other duties as she saw fit. Due to financial reverses, Mme. Mieusset's private income ceased, and she went to work as a domestic on Beacon Hill. She lived on Kirkland St. in the South End, becoming increasingly frail but ever attending her son's grave by scrimping and saving.

After breaking a leg, she went to the City facility on Long Island and died of complications from that accident. Having no heirs and not having told the hospital about her grave lot at Forest Hills, Louise Mieusset was buried in a pauper's grave in Potters Field on Long Island. Fortunately, a neighbor, Mrs. Jackson knew Mme. Mieusset's tale and wrote ex-Mayor Curley. Within 24 hours she lay next to her son awaiting eternity.

Perhaps the loveliest element about this tale is that it has no ending. For even after the death of his mother (whose grave is not specifically marked) fresh flowers are left at the site almost daily, anonymously. Even stakeouts at the site have never revealed whom it is that keeps the site so dutifully.
Grief is a powerful human emotion, fueled as it is by love and memories. One can become as frozen in it as the stones which mark the graves. Or, one can live into it, keeping the love and the memories alive.

I find myself feeling a bit sad, today, that I live so far away from where my relatives are buried I can't go and visit their graves on this Memorial Day.  I have my memories, though - some of people who died even before I was born.

My faith informs me that we will all be together, one day, in "that great by-and-by".

Until that day, I live this day cherishing the treasures of the stories of the people - mothers and fathers, uncles and aunts and cousins, heroes and scoundrels, veterans of wars and objectors of conscience - who gave shape and form to who I am and what I am yet to become.

They live on in my heart, which, I think, is the best monument anyone could ever have.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Hypocrisy? Cherchez la femme

It has taken me a few days to really take in the latest episode of "Men (in Purple Shirts) Behaving Badly". I keep getting indigestion, interspersed with occasional bouts of nausea and vomiting.

In case you haven't heard, a memo written by the Very Rev'd Colin Slee, former Dean of the Cathedral in Southwark, England, before his death from pancreatic cancer last November, has been released by his family.

The memo, first reported by The Guardian UK and described as "devastating," states:
The document reveals shouting matches and arm-twisting by the archbishops to keep out the diocese's preferred choices as bishop: Jeffrey John, the gay dean of St Albans, and Nicholas Holtam, rector of St Martin-in-the-Fields in central London, whose wife was divorced many years ago. Eventually Christopher Chessun, then an assistant bishop, was chosen.

John, an able theologian and gifted preacher and pastor, highly regarded in the diocese and a friend of Williams, is celibate but in a longstanding civil partnership with another clergyman. He was forced by the archbishop to stand down after being appointed suffragan bishop of Reading eight years ago, following an orchestrated protest campaign by evangelicals. Holtam's promotion had been blocked because of his wife's divorce but he has since become bishop of Salisbury.

Slee described Williams shouting and losing his temper in last year's Southwark meeting, which left several members of the crown nomination committee, responsible for the selection of bishops, in tears.

Slee also in effect charges the church with hypocrisy, stating that there are several gay bishops "who have been less than candid about their domestic arrangements and who, in a conspiracy of silence, have been appointed to senior positions". The memo warns: "This situation cannot endure. Exposure of the reality would be nuclear."
See what I mean? It's pretty awful, isn't it?

Except, of course, that their hypocrisy has been, at long last, exposed. That's a huge relief for many, many people - especially those of us in the North American provinces of The Anglican Communion who have been used as a British whipping post for all that is wrong with the world and the reason we 'need' the Anglican Covenant Contract.

We are "more than candid" about our bishops. Indeed, there's a word for it:


Here's another: Truthful.

That's sooOOoo annoying.

Of course there have been bishops in the Church of England who are gay! There have to have been. It has been ever thus in the church throughout Christendom. Bishop Gene Robinson is hardly the first gay bishop in the Anglican Communion. He's merely the first to be honest and truthful about his God-given sexual orientation.

Many gay men who come from affluent families and/or are well connected to deep pockets of money or political power have often been appointed bishops. It's an old, sad, pathetic game the church thinks no one can detect from behind the billows of incense and lace cottas and perfectly chanted psalms.

Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori 
It is, however, hard to imagine fuzzy, cuddly old Rowan behaving like a bully. Well, some of us have gotten glimmers in the past that this was part of his character.

Remember when he wouldn't allow our Presiding Bishop wear her mitre when she visited Southwark Cathedral in June of 2010?

Some of us remember it clearly. ENS reported:
In the week before her visit, the presiding bishop said, Lambeth pressured her office to provide evidence of her ordination to each order of ministry.

"This is apparently a requirement of one of their canons about the ministry of clergy from overseas," she said.

The presiding bishop said both the ordination and mitre issues put the Very Rev. Colin Slee, Southwark's dean, "in a very awkward position."

She called the requirements "nonsense" and said, "It is bizarre; it is beyond bizarre."
Bizarre behavior, bullying and bad behavior seem the order of the day when Men in Purple Shirts feel their power and authority threatened.

Apparently, according to the Slee memo, "We had two very horrible days in which I would say both archbishops behaved very badly." And,
"The archbishop of Canterbury was bad tempered throughout. When it came to voting, certainly two – possibly three – members were in tears and [Williams] made no acknowledgement but carried on regardless. At a critical point Archbishop Sentamu and three other members simultaneously went to the lavatory, after which the voting patterns changed."
One wonders what it was they washed their hands of.

Oh, but wait! There's more!
Slee's evidence to the leak enquiry claimed that it was the archbishop of Canterbury himself who was responsible for the leak by asking church lawyers outside the committee for legal advice on whether John could be stopped. Lambeth Palace denies that it was the source of the leak and says there are errors in Slee's account. The archbishop of York's office refused to comment, saying the whole process was entirely confidential.

The House of Bishops sought legal advice to discover whether it would be illegal to deny John a job. A briefing in December from the Church House legal department appears to state that though it would be illegal to discriminate against him because he is a celibate gay person, it was perfectly in order to discriminate against him because there are Christians who cannot accept gay people.
Besides the hypocrisy, is anyone else catching the deep irony here? The governance of the secular world is more concerned with justice than that of the governance of the church. Indeed, the law of the land in England would seem to have a higher regard for the justice and liberty and full inclusion of all individuals into every aspect of community life than does the Church of England.

Bizarre, badly behaving, bullying Bishops? How can this possibly be? Why would otherwise mild-mannered, God-fearing, well educated men who have dedicated their lives to following the teachings of Christ behave like this?

It's something of a mystery to many.

The French would say, "Cherchez la femme" - ( \sher-shā-lä-fȧm\ ) - a French phrase which literally means "look for the woman." The implication is that a man behaves out of character or in an otherwise inexplicable manner because he is trying to cover up an affair with a woman, or trying to impress or gain favor with a woman.

I don't think there is "another woman" involved here - well, not in that way - but I do think this sordid 'affair' is all part of the Church of England's conflicted ideas about gender and the authority and power.

I have long maintained that wherever there is the smoke of homophobia and heterosexism burn the fires of misogyny and sexism. This is what some are calling the Lambeth "Quadrilateral of Bigotry".

Look at the way an institution treats homosexual men and you will soon discover what it really thinks and feels about women (of any sexual orientation) - beyond how they treat women publicly.

Psychiatrist Carl Jung talked a great deal about 'midlife crisis'. Jungian theory holds that midlife is key to individuation, a process of self-actualization and self-awareness that contains many potential paradoxes.

Jung talked about how our culture forces men to keep their feminine aspects - the anima - under control. By the time a man reaches midlife, the anima rises again and many men try to control their interior life by conquering the feminine in their exterior life. So, they have affairs with their secretaries or other women and divorce their wives.

It has been argued that the church is in the midlife of her development into the realities of modernity and post-modernity. The feminine aspects in the interior life of the church - the anima - are rising again and the 'animus' - the male aspects in the interior life of the church - has become like a lion roaring over his pride.

And that's the real 'nuclear reactor' of Dean Slee's memo. All of it - the hypocrisy and prejudice and bigotry - is being exposed for all the world to see.

Cherchez la femme - look for the woman - the anima - behind the mystery of this bigoted, bullying, bizarre behavior from the Princes of the Church and you'll understand it better. It may even give us a strategy in terms of how to confront it and heal ourselves of this terribly painful rift.

When Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori preached last June - without her mitre - at Southwark Cathedral, the text of the gospel appointed for the day was Luke 7:36-50, in which a woman washed Jesus' feet with her tears and then let down her hair to dry them.

In her sermon, Jefferts Schori asked,
"What makes us so afraid of the other?"

"There's something in our ancient genetic memory that ratchets up our state of arousal when we meet a stranger -- it's a survival mechanism that has kept our species alive for millennia by being wary about strangers," she said. "But there's also a piece of our makeup that we talk about in more theological terms -- the part that leaps to judgment about that person's sins. It's connected to knowing our own sinfulness, and our tendency toward competition -- well, she must be a worse sinner than I am -- thank God!"
There's a word for that: hypocrisy.

Here's another - the key to the not-so mysterious bad behavior of the Princes of the Church:

Cherchez la femme.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Where the heart is

Being back at Llangollen on Rehoboth Bay here in Delaware feels like home.

And yet, a piece of my heart will always be in Massachusetts, where I was born and raised up and educated and from whence I've just returned after a five month sabbatical as Proctor Scholar at EDS.

I'm glad to be here but I'm already missing my odd little "Thomas's English Muffin" apartment - the one with all the 'nooks and crannies' - on the third floor of the last house on the cul de sac of St. John's Road in Cambridge.

My little pup, Theo, did quite well in the car. It was a Very Big trip for him - the longest he's ever spent in the car at one time. And, he's not exactly fond of the car. It was four hours to NJ and then three and a half to DE.

Round about CT he actually settled down and stopped shaking and did fine the whole rest of the journey. I was very proud of him.

Ms. Conroy is here with Mr. Lenny ("Sir Lostalot") and Ms CoCo (Queen Mouther of Barksalot). The Queen Mouther has dubbed Theo "Sir Woofsalot" and taken him on as one of her subjects. Loyalty will, no doubt, be something she has to earn - or Theo will have to learn.

Film at 11.

Theo is very curious about the boats going by the house. He watches them carefully as they come slowly from the Bay into the Sound and by the Marshes. Ms. CoCo is convinced they are a potential threat to the pack, so when she hears them coming, she jumps off her favorite place on the couch pillow and charges into the Sun Room and onto the deck, barking the entire way.

Lenny sort of looks around, not quite sure what to do - but that's his usual posture about everything these days. Even toys. Or, food. Early Doggy Alzheimer's, we think.

Theo 'woofs' in solidarity with CoCo, but isn't quite sure why she's so upset. I mean - that thing? On the water? Out there? What is it, anyway, and why are we supposed to bark at it?

By the time the boys have figured it all out - or, in Lenny's case, not - Ms. CoCo is done with her work and has returned to her place on the couch. The boys then return to their respective places: Lenny by my feet and Theo on his pillow near my chair. It's all quiet until the next boat goes by, and this weekend, it's like the Mass Turnpike out there.

Ms. Conroy has been doing her own barking and woofing about the yard. All that winter snow and spring rain have caused an abundance of weeds to sprout and grow. She's been pulling them out and is now about 75% done.

She's at the Farm Store now, getting the "string" (or whatever it's called) for the weed whacker which will be tonight's chore - after the sun goes down. She'll also purchase the weed killer which we'll put down tomorrow morning before church.

This is how she relaxes.

Don't even go there, okay?

I still have lots of unpacking to do, but I'm taking my time about it all. The weather is just too lovely to spend inside the house. It's in the high 80s / low 90s today with a lovely wind coming up from the South. It feels almost like a tropical trade wind.

Besides, my heart needs to unpack all the things it filled up in Cambridge. I need to let go of some things before I can fully move back into Llangollen.

Home is supposedly where the heart is.

It appears that I have several places in my heart where I call home.

How very blessed am I?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Stop the Lambeth Steamroller

I'm on the road today - heading back to Delaware with a stop over in New Jersey.

I wrote this last night and posted it on HOB/D (House of Bishops/Deputies) Listserv in response to repeated requests from Tobias Haller and Chris Cunningham, both deputies from the Diocese of New York, as to my specific objections to Section III of the Anglican Covenant - hereinafter named The Anglican Contract.

I know. I know. I said I wasn't going to write on that odious document again. I really didn't intend to. Blame Tobias.

At any rate, this ought to keep you busy and out of mischief while I'm gone.

I thank you for your 'traveling mercies' and pray for your mercy when this gets a bit tedious.

Tobias and Chris,

You asked what my problem was in terms of Sections 1-3. I assume you are looking for something to put into the proposed "Stop the Lambeth Steamroller" Resolution.

I'll try to help you with that, but I fear I won't be of much help. I offer this because you seem to want it, not that I think it will be particularly edifying for those on this list. But, since you asked, here goes:

This is going to be a bit long, even for me, so if you develop "MEGO" (My Eyes Glass Over) and you want to get to what I think is the good stuff, scroll down to the end under "Four Unifying Elements of the Anglican Communion".

Let me first state that I HATE this stuff. I hate that I have the Anglican Covenant (hereafter named "Contract") bookmarked in my browser. I'm ashamed to admit that I don't have the Bible bookmarked. Neither do I have the BCP bookmarked. And yet, here we are, referring to The Anglican contract by section and paragraph.

How many Episcopalians do you know who can refer to Scripture by Chapter and Verse? If we spent half the time studying Scripture as we do this bloody Anglican Contract, we'd be a much stronger communion.

Here endth my rant and beginth my response.

In truth, it's not so much what's in The Anglican Contract as what ISN'T in there. There are quite a few missing pieces. Important pieces.

Before I get into specifics (did I mention that I HATE this?), I must say that the general picture of Sections 1-3 is not expansive enough to include the other important RELATIONAL pieces of what it means to be an Anglican. The whole things sounds juridical and legalistic. It uses language about "interdependent" and "family" but nowhere does it embody those sentiments or ecclesiological positions.

Furthermore, there is no mention of The Anglican Spirit of Tolerance, much less the Via Media. Nothing about how we are not a 'confessional church"; neither are we one with a magesterium. Anglicanism is, at its best, a pragmatic faith. Gosh, we don't want that in there, now, do we? That would make us look pretty foolish when we get to Section IV.

No mention, either of the "three-legged stool" of Scripture, Reason and Tradition. These are things kids in Confirmation Class around the Communion learn as the basics of Anglicanism. Where is this in Sections 1-3?

Section 1-3 contains nothing that is not already in our Outline of Faith.  My problem is that it embellishes the Catechism. For example:

SECTION I (You can follow along by clicking on each section, or click here)

(1.1.3) the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as containing all things necessary for salvation

I'm fine with this statement - but this? - "and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith".

Well, not so much.

Not as I and hundreds of thousands of faithful Christians have learned our Catechism over the years. There's not one thing in the Catechism about "rule and ultimate standard of faith". Scripture is not a 'rule' book. It is, rather, a guide book. Neither is it a "standard of faith".

God is the ultimate judge of my faith - not someone else's interpretation of Scripture.

I'm going to leave the parts about the Creeds alone for now, except to say that our Catechism describes them as "statements of our basic beliefs in God," which I suppose the Covenant means about being "sufficient statements." Does that mean that other Statements of Faith are acceptable?

I find the two following statement deeply ironic . . .

1.2.4) to hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the Scriptures in our different contexts, informed by the attentive and communal reading of - and costly witness to - the Scriptures by all the faithful, by the teaching of bishops and synods, and by the results of rigorous study by lay and ordained scholars.

(1.2.6) to encourage and be open to prophetic and faithful leadership in ministry and mission so as to enable God’s people to respond in courageous witness to the power of the gospel in the world.

. . . . . especially the parts about "in our different contexts" and "an costly witness to" and "prophetic and faithful leadership" and "courageous witness" - given the context and historical development of the Anglican Covenant.

Does this "mission" include Queer People into a "worldwide family of interdependent church"?

I think not.

Section IV obliterates and makes an hypocrisy of the good intentions of these words.


2.1.4) . . . As the Communion continues to develop into a worldwide family of interdependent churches, we embrace challenges and opportunities for mission at local, regional, and international levels

Or, in this? (2.2.2.d) . . . “to seek to transform unjust structures of society”

The Archbishops of York and Canterbury have been pathetically lax in speaking prophetically about the injustice to Queer People in the Global South. They are positively antagonistic about transforming the "unjust structures" of the church with regard to Queer People and women.

The memorandum of Dean Colin Slee is the latest documentation of the hypocrisy of these two Princes of the Church.

And, what of the church's "unjust structures" with regards to the ordination of women and the election/appointment of women to the episcopacy? Oopsie. Another bit of hypocrisy showing there.

Let me return briefly to something in SECTION I

(1.1.5) the two sacraments ordained by Christ himself – Baptism and the Supper of the Lord – ministered with the unfailing use of Christ’s words of institution, and of the elements ordained by him.

Why is there no mention of the Five Sacramental Rites of the Church? This is a most curious omission. They are, in fact, mostly pastoral and catechetical. Oh, no. We don't want anything like THAT in this document.


(3.1.2) its resolve to live in a Communion of Churches. Each Church, with its bishops in synod, orders and regulates its own affairs and its local responsibility for mission through its own system of government and law and is therefore described as living “in communion with autonomy and accountability”

Section IV banishes this statement to the realm of "good intentions" and to the state of almost laughable. Really? "orders and regulates its own affairs"? The "autonomy" part is diminished by the "accountability" as vaguely outlined in Section IV.

(3.1.3) the central role of bishops as guardians and teachers of faith, as leaders in mission, and as a visible sign of unity, representing the universal Church to the local, and the local Church to the universal and the local Churches to one another. This ministry is exercised personally, collegially and within and for the eucharistic community. We receive and maintain the historic threefold ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, ordained for service in the Church of God, as they call all the baptised into the mission of Christ.

Where is the laity in the orders of ministry? Oopsie! Well, they're a troublesome lot anyway. If we don't mention them, maybe they really don't exist - except during Stewardship Season. Oh yes, and when we want to count them in our statistics.


Don't get me started.

Four Unifying Elements of the Anglican Communion

Finally, I strenuously object to the enshrinement of The Four Instruments of Communion. It is an innovation of  The 1997 Virginia Report which was "received" at Lambeth 1998 and, I think General Convention, but has never been formally adopted by the either the Primates or the entire Communion.

Yes, yes, yes. I know. It is descriptive of our reality anyway. Why am I getting my Victoria Secrets in a twist? Well, because I think there is another, better way to describe the instruments or vehicles which unite us as a communion.

Allow me to be so bold as to offer this suggested alternative as the

Four Unifying Elements of the Anglican Communion:

1. Scripture - We believe that scripture is the Word of God, because God inspired their human authors and because God still speaks to us through the Bible. We understand the meaning of the bible by the help of the Holy Spirit, who guides the Church in the true interpretation of the Scriptures (BCP, pg 853 - 4). One of the most demanding tasks of every Christian is to read scripture with the intent to answer, for themselves, the question Jesus asked of his disciples, "Who do you say I am?".

2 Tradition - We believe that God's engagement with the world, through Christ, is also revealed theologically in the traditions of the Church, which include the two historic Creeds (Apostles and Nicene), the two Major Sacraments (Baptism and Eucharist), the five Sacramental Rites (Confirmation, Ordination, Holy Matrimony, Reconciliation of a Penitent and Unction of the Sick), the Book of Common Prayer, the liturgical calendar of Holy Days, Lesser Feasts and Fasts, and Calendar of Saints, the Historic Councils and Documents of the Church and the hierarchy of the ministers of the church: The Archbishop of Canterbury, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, Deacon and Laity of the Church who participate in the mission of the church and take their places, as appropriate, in the central governing bodies and councils and corridors of authority in the church, including the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates Meeting (Lambeth)

3 Reason - A personal relationship with God allows us to realize and celebrate our lives to the fullest. The gift of reason, as a complement to Scripture and tradition, leads us to seek answers to our own questions and to grow spiritually. Being active in a community of faith strengthens us to carry our faith into the world. Weaving Scripture, tradition and reason together, we strengthen our faith and grow as children of God. Reason also allows us to seek the historic Anglican Via Media of the comprehensive unity of both/and, rather than either/or. This is best seen in the Elizabethan Settlement which embraces our catholicity as well as reformed faith. We are neither a 'confessional' faith nor one with a magisterium. Because of the divine gift of reason, our faith is pragmatic.

4. Worship - We are guided by a belief in the principle "lex orendi, lex credendi" - the law of prayer is the law of belief. In this way, our various Books of Common Prayer contain our doctrinal statements. There are a variety of Books of Common Prayer throughout the Anglican Communion. What they all have in common is that they are (1) biblical and edifying, (2) reformed, (3) in a language that is common to the people (4) has a consistent shape and form (5) is authorized by the church and the bishop, who is the chief liturgical diocesan officer; (6) are neither "dumb" (do not teach anything or are to difficult to understand) nor "dark" (contain incorrect teaching); follows the liturgical cycle of biblical readings so that scripture is a central part; (7) appropriate to every nation.

Now, you may quibble with my descriptive paragraphs - or even flat out disagree - but, in the main, I find these four elements more unifying than the regulatory, legalistic four of Archbishop of Canterbury, The Lambeth Conference, The Anglican Consultative Council, and the Primates Meeting - which is disproportionately centered on clergy and governance and hierarchy which, ultimately, does not hold us together in the relational ways in which scripture, tradition, reason and worship do.

Unless, of course, clergy and governance and hierarchy are most important to you and scripture, tradition, reason and worship are not. In that case, never mind.

Okay, I'm done. Now I have MEGO.

On my way out of town, I'm going to take my entire tin of imported Earl Grey Tea, drive out to the Boston Harbor and dump the whole thing into the water, calling on the revolutionary spirit of the good men and women of the Church of England (and later, Episcopal Church) who chanted, "No taxation without representation!".

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Kathy Klammer
I've spent most of the morning sorting through papers and books - the blessing and curse of a theological education.

It won't surprise any of you that I simply can not part with my books. Harvard Coop has this great deal that they will take your "gently used" books and refund a portion of the money you spent on them. Indeed, all but one of the books I bought were in that category.

They have found a home with me and have become as friends. Mostly because, when I read a text, I have to engage with it. There's something about holding a book in your hands - especially when the author is engaging - and engaging in dialogue with the author by making comments on the sides and in between paragraphs that is irresistible.

Don't get me wrong, I love my Kindle, but I have not yet mastered the art of typing in notes. Well, I have, but I find the keyboard frustrating.

When I study something, I want to hold the book in my hands and write in the margins. That's just my preferred way of reading and studying.

Old habits die hard.

It's not the books that are difficult to sort through. It's the papers. The articles I downloaded and printed out on those nights when my eyes were glazing over the laptop screen and I wanted to engage more fully with the author.

I've narrowed it down to about six articles I want to keep. The rest are already in the trash, waiting to be taken to the dumpster.

I've also come across some cards and notes that were sent to me by friends when I first got here. I've held onto them because they make me feel less lonely in this time of living alone in my little third floor writer's garret.

I call "The Thomas' English Muffin" apartment because of all the odd little "nooks and crannies" in every single room. I think I'll always have sore spots on my head from bumping into one of them at least once a day. I won't miss that.

I've dumped most of the cards and held onto a few. I'll use them as bookmarks in some of those books I'm taking home.

One of them, a Mother's Day card from a dear friend, reads:
Sometimes I think
its the love
of the womenfolk
of this world
that keeps
the old planet spinning.

We're the ones
who nourish, nurture, and nudge
the people we care about
and never mind
what foolishness
is happening around us . . .

We're the ones who keep it real,
keep it together, and keep it going...
especially for each other.

Having a sisterfriend like you
means I know exactly
where to go for strong support
and savvy advice,
for all-out laughter
and caring
deep from the heart....

I count myself blessed to have you.
I don't know what I'd do
without your sweet self in my life.
I love you, Girl
I truly do.
Now, how can I toss that one out?


The Urban Dictionary defines this new word this way:
"Your bestesting friend. Better than any friend. Who's been your friend for so long you might as well be sisters. You hate her you love her. She's your sister".
I actually called a sisterfriend the other night to talk about how to decide which articles and papers I was going to keep and which I was going to toss. She's the one I call when I want to think analytically and systematically while still being sensitive to relationships and other matters of the heart.

The amazing thing about her is that, as smart and as savvy and well educated as she is, she's never insulted or annoyed when I call to ask her about something as mundane as which articles to toss. I could have been asking her something that was dramatically life-changing. She treats all my questions with the same respect and seriousness, with equal amounts of care and concern.

I'm so deeply grateful for her friendship.

There are other sisterfrieds I call to talk through other issues - each one experts in matters of finance, romance, car repair, the best wine to serve with a particular food, how to iron a blouse with a round collar, the intricacies and not-so-sacred mysteries of a computer, how to get a spot out of a rug or a stain from a favorite dress, or the best way to filet a fish.

And all of them, each and everyone, knows how to listen. Deeply. Through all my bullcrap and spin. Deep into the heart of the heart of what I'm trying to say but am terrified to put into words.

They are absolutely amazing, these sisterfriends of mine. Treasures, really. That's because sisterfriends are usually the friends who have stood some test of time with you.

They've seen you in your worst moments and still see the best in you.

They've seen you in moments where you shine and are also quick to remind you that you still put your shoes on, one foot at a time.

They WILL tell you if your butt looks big in those pants - without your necessarily asking.

They will silently slip you an Altoid or a mint when they can tell you've had garlic for lunch.

They tell you when it's time to get your hair cut or trimmed or say, "Oh, girl! You need a mani/pedi. Bad. I can't stand to look at your feet one second more. C'mon, let's go." And, you know the real deal is that THEY really want/need a mani/pedi but you go anyway.

You can talk about anything with them : sex, religion, death, taxes and politics (even though a few of them are Republican) - even the Anglican Covenant, again! - and passionately disagree, but that doesn't change your relationship.

You can call them, or they you, and say, "Hey, did you see that sunset?" Or, "Quick, look outside! The moon is absolutely incredible!" Or,  "You have GOT to get this book I just finished reading." You'll talk for three, maybe five minutes, and that's that.

Or, you can call them, or they you, and say absolutely nothing because it's good enough just to hear the sound of their voice.

You can not see them for months - years - and pick up the conversation again, almost where you left it, as if no time at all had passed.

They do that because they know that I will do that for them, too.

Maya Angelou reportedly once said, "I don't believe an accident of birth makes people sisters or brothers. It makes them siblings, gives them mutuality of parentage. Sisterhood and brotherhood is a condition people have to work at".

I don't know if men have the equivalent relationship, and, if they do, how that manifests itself. I couldn't find the term in the Urban Dictionary. I hope they do.

I do have some brotherfriends who almost - almost - qualify as sisterfriends. Most of them are gay but a one - maybe two - are straight.  It's not exactly the same, but it's a deeper relationship than I've had with my own brother.

I know my life is so much richer for all my sisterfriends. I could never sort through them and get rid of them like my books or papers.

I keep them all, young and old, rich and poor, black or white, short or tall.

Because, you know, you just never know when you're gonna need one.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

And I am an Episcopal Girl

I'm in the midst of getting my head wrapped around leaving EDS to go back home.

It's not the packing. I packed like a monk to come here so that task will really only take me less than an hour. I've already packed away my sweaters and boots, which, even for this time of year can be a bit of a risk in Northern New England.

It's supposed to reach the 80s here today and tomorrow which one might be able to enjoy were it not for the cloudy skies and forecast of "intermittent thunderstorms". As I wrote that, the sun peeked out for a few brief minutes and then was hidden by the clouds again.

This morning's walk around Memorial Drive felt more like a walk in a tepid cup of tea that had been sitting forgotten on the counter.

So, between the weather and thinking about leaving this place and 'most this amazing time' of my life, my thoughts are wandering back and forth, here and there, anywhere but on the actual leave-taking.

I find that I am a mixture of sad and grateful. Yes, I'm sad this time has come to an end, but I knew that it would come to an eventual end when I arrived. It wouldn't be so special if it had gone on forever.

Mostly I'm grateful for what I've learned here - and, there have been many, many things I've learned here. In the classroom and outside of the classroom.

It's too early to make a list of them all, but I want to lift up one thing that has become crystal clear for me.

I am an Episcopalian.

Yes, I do appreciate and, in fact, cherish the fact that The Episcopal Church is part of the World Wide Anglican Communion. Our great diversity is something very dear to me, and I wouldn't change that for the world - or the Anglican Covenant.

Having said that, I am clearer than I have been in a long time that I love The Episcopal Church. Indeed, I would dare to be so immodest to say that I think we embody the best of the Spirit of Anglicanism.

We are the messiest of the messiness of Anglicanism. Yes, we have order and discipline, but we are democratic in the best sense of a philosophy that believes we are not perfect.

Our goal, rather, is to be like our government - A "more perfect union".

That means that we allow all sort and manner of different views and perspectives because we know that we are perfected in the crucible of differences.

"We meet" - as Bishop Tutu once said when asked to describe the Anglican Communion. And then, in The Episcopal Church, we vote. We elect our leaders. They are not appointed by those already in power. We disagree adamantly and we passionately agree to disagree as we move forward in faith.

Together. Some of us grinching and grumbling. Others of us educating and organizing and yes, lobbying our positions.

That's the thing about The Episcopal Church. We not only understand and use politics and the political process, we're not afraid of it. Indeed, we embrace it as one of the ways the Holy Spirit works.

We are, for the most part, quite convinced that the Holy Spirit moves through the legislative process - complete with various legislative committees, continuing commissions, resolutions, hearings, and, yes, voting, politicking and lobbying.

It can be tedious and frustrating, but when one looks at it as a whole, it's really quite a marvelous sight. How boring would it be in a church where everyone agreed on everything?

I am even more pleased - and yes, proud - to be an Episcopalian, having spent this semester here at The Episcopal Divinity School, which mirrors the Blessed Messiness of The Episcopal Church.

So, as I go about my day, saying my 'faretheewells' and "God-speeds" and "traveling mercies" to my friends here in Cambridge and Boston, I will leave you with this delightful video.

It was taken last year at the Variety Show at the Virginia Theological Seminary. Most seminaries have these sorts of fun events. EDS has something they call "Both/And".  I wasn't able to attend this year, but I understand a few of the new faculty were properly roasted.

This particular video from VTS is not only fairly well done, it is a hoot and a half.

Part of what I love about it is that, despite the controversies and troubles in the church, it displays the marvelous ability to laugh at ourselves.

I think there's something holy about laughter - especially in the face of adversity and in the midst of controversy. A sense of humor is a gift from God. To paraphrase that great line from "The Color Purple", I think it pisses God off when we don't laugh.

Or, as Garrison Keillor once said, "God writes a lot of comedy... the trouble is, he's stuck with so many bad actors who don't know how to play funny."

I think I love that most about The Episcopal Church. We know how to play funny.

Here. Take a look. (Eat your heart out, Madonna!)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Adjusted to Love

I thought is was about time to give y'all an update on Theo, aka "Mr. Wonderful".

For those of you who might recall, Theo is the half-poodle, half Jack Russell Terrier pup who came to me from New England Poodle Rescue on March 20th - just nine weeks ago. I first blogged about him here.

In a word, Theo has adjusted. As have I.  We've both done quite well, in fact.

Oh, we've still got many miles to go together, but I can see so much progress in the past nine weeks, it's really quite remarkable.

You might want to "compare and contrast' with this photo of him, to your right, which I took on March 24th, shortly after he came for his "two week trial visit".

The trial was over long ago.

He rarely "shivery-shakes" any more - except when he's in his car seat and we're traveling in the car together. I think he associates being in the car with going to the Vet or, perhaps, when he was first rescued from that hoarding situation.

The car seat allows him to look out the windshield and side window while being held securely in his harness. That seems better than being in the travel crate where I could hear him whine and whimper in the back seat.

He's gotten much better, now jumping into the car and right into his car seat so I can buckle him in. The last few days, he's learned to settle down and curl himself up in his seat. He still looks at me with pleading eyes that ask, "You're not going to leave me somewhere, are you?"

I talk to him in soothing tones, play music for us and sing to him.

We're about to take a four hour trip back to NJ on Thursday, on our way back home to DE, so I'm hoping he'll do well. At least the trip will be broken up - four hours and then three hours, with stops for water and walks along the way.

While he still doesn't yet know what to make of "doggie toys" he's gotten much more animated the past month or so. He's really quite a clown - especially when he wants to let me know it's time to go outdoors for his . . . 'constitutional'.

He dances, is what he does. Dances and runs to the stairs. Then dances and runs back to me. When I get up, he does this happy-happy-joy-joy dance and I can almost hear him singing, "She got it! She understands! There IS a God! Alleluia!"

When I put on my shoes, more dancing. When I put on my jacket, he is flat-out ecstatic. He calms himself enough to sit patiently while I get his leash and put it on him - something I've yet to teach Ms. Coco or Mr. Lenny.  I am deeply grateful. He's quite a gentleman.

Then, he races down the stairs and jumps at the door as if to say, "Now, Mama. Now. Hurry. I can only be so good for so long."

I have begun to let go of the leash and let him race down three flights of stairs where he jumps at the door again. Sometimes, he barks and dances round and round until I pick up the leash, open the door, and out we go.

He's fascinated by the various squirrels, chipmunks and bunnies who live in the neighborhood. He stands very still and stares at them. They stare back. It's an interesting little standoff because the other critters seem to know that he is on a leash and they are not. I think Theo is oblivious to the leash.

The other day there was a wild turkey strutting through the back yard. Such an odd, awkward elegance. Theo's hair was standing on end as he stood very still, watching the turkey trot here and there, looking for a plan of escape.

Theo was very brave, even though the turkey was a much bigger creature. And then there was the matter of that rather large beak. He never barked, just stood his ground in front of me and stared down this strange creature which finally managed to get itself over the fence and into the next yards.

I'm convinced it's all about protecting me from them - the squirrels, the chipmunks, the bunnies and the wild turkeys. I fall in love with him all over again every time he does this.

His coat has gotten very shiny and I swear he's gotten heavier. He eats quite well, thank you, no longer gulping down some kibble while he looks nervously around the corner of the kitchen to see who might be coming.

I can even now leave the kitchen while he's eating or drinking and he continues to eat or drink. Not long ago, I couldn't have done that. He was too nervous.

I have been giving him a few drops of "Rescue Medicine" - actually, it's called "Anxiety TFLN" (Thunderstorms/Fireworks/Loud Noises) by "HomeoPet". It contains things like Rhodendron and Chamomilla - sort of a 'sleepy time tea' for dogs.

I give it to him before we go out for a walk or a ride in the car and it does seem to help - just takes the edge off the anxiety a bit. He still doesn't like loud noises - leaf blowers, trucks hitting a pot hole, sirens - and hides behind my legs when he hears them. But, he's much friendlier with people on the street.

Indeed, I haven't seen a shred of evidence of the report that he doesn't like men. He greats everyone - male and female - with the same caution when first introduced. Gradually, though, he warms up and will now go to someone who comes down to his level and extends an open hand. Oh, he's still Very Cautious, but he doesn't stand and shivery-shake the way he first did.

And, Mr. Theo has a voice. Oh, yes. Yes, he does. Quite mouthy, in fact, when he hears any noise downstairs or outside. Again, it's all about protecting me, so I understand. It is funny, though, when he barks and grumbles and huffs.

Sometimes, he sounds like he's cursing, "Grrrumble. Think you can come into my turf, do you? Grrrumble. Snort. Woof. Don't even think about opening that door. Grrumble. Woof. Snort. I will show you who's in charge here. You... you... whoever you are."

No amount of soothing reassurances - "It's okay, boy" -  or stern directions to "Stop! No barking!" will deter him from what he believes is his bounded duty to protect and defend me from whatever unknown, unseen dangers may be lurking.

Despite my mild annoyance or concern that he may disturb my neighbors, in those moments, I fall in love with him all over again.

Except, of course, for those times when he comes to me, unexpectedly, in the middle of the morning or afternoon and pats his paw on my arm, asking for a head or belly rub.

Or, those times at night, with what's become our bedtime ritual. I come into the bedroom, he's curled up on my pillow. I pout and try to sound sad and say, "Theo." He looks at me and then turns his head while I get undressed (told you he was a gentleman).

As I turn down the covers, he sighs and moves slowly from the pillow. As soon as I get into bed, he nuzzles his snout and head under my arm while I stroke his silky coat and tell him how much I love him, and what a good boy he's been and how tomorrow is going to be an even better day.

Then, he cuddles and snuggles as we say our prayers (Compline, of course) before  I turn off the light and we drift off to sleep.

Did I mention I'm in love?

A friend of mine has bought a bumper sticker for me. It's waiting for me when I return to NJ. It says, "Who rescued who?"

I think that just about says it all.

Oh, except this: If you are thinking about bringing a pet into your life - a dog, a cat, a bird - before you head out to the Mall or answer that ad in the paper for puppies that start at $250 apiece, please consider visiting your local Rescue Center.

Or, go online, type in the breed you're looking for, followed by the words "rescue". You might even narrow the search by typing in your state. It's amazing - and heartbreaking - the number of pets who are waiting for a good, loving home.

One of them may be yours.

Oh, it's a bit of an adjustment - on both sides - one that involves adjusting to love.

Love is an adjustment of the heart that changes your whole world. It opens your heart and warms your days. It rescues you from your own small way of thinking that expands your perspective on life.

We've only been together for nine weeks, but I couldn't imagine life without Theo. Indeed, has there been life before Theo? If there was, I can't remember much about it.

Love can do that to a person. And, I think, to dogs as well.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Getting stoned

I have two things on my mind today. The lessons from the lectionary for this Fifth Sunday in Eastertide and - sigh - yes, The Anglican Covenant.

Again. I'm sorry.

I'm very taken with the various images of stones in the lessons and the psalm.

The first reading is the stoning of Stephen from Acts 7:55-60.
"While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he died."
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 reminds us that God is our "strong rock, a castle to keep me safe, for you are my crag and my stronghold."

1 Peter 2:2-10 implores us to come to Jesus, "a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God's sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ".

In John's Gospel (John 14:1-14), Jesus reminds us that "In my Father's house there are many dwelling places." The gospel story ends with an astonishing promise,
"Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it."
I've been holding onto that promise as I consider a response to the Anglican Covenant from my brother, Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG, who has posted his thoughts over at his blog, "In A Godward Direction." His essay is "Still Thinking". You can find it here.

What follows is my response to him. You'll see that this morning's gospel account about 'stones' has influenced some of my thinking.

Let me first say that I am responding to Tobias because he is my brother, sure and true. I have nothing but the deepest respect and admiration for him. He is a good priest and pastor with a brilliant mind and articulate, eloquent voice. His wit is also quite keen and he sometimes makes me laugh right in the middle of a very serious thought. That's quite a talent.

I think what I love most about Tobias is his generosity of spirit. Her really does try to make people feel interesting and listened to, actually take interest in and listen to them. His operating assumption is a positive regard for absolutely everyone, unless proven otherwise incorrect. Even so, he is unfailingly gracious and kind and compassionate.

Which is why it is so difficult to disagree with him in any circumstance. It is even more difficult to do this publicly. However, I feel I must since Tobias is so well respected and his positions so highly regarded as to render his opinions highly persuasive.

Now, I hasten to add that I am no Tobias Haller. I am not going to be able to debate him, point by point. Oh, I could, but I would be a fool to do so. He could unseat me with his rhetorical flourishes and debating ability with one hand tied behind his back and a cloth over his mouth.

I'm simply going to tell you why I disagree with Tobias. More importantly, I'm going to tell you why I think the position Tobias takes is a dangerous one. Not 'end of the world' dangerous, but dangerous to the soul and spirit of Anglicanism.

So, to my thoughts:
Thank you, Tobias, for providing this thoughtful response on a Saturday evening when the mind of a parish priest is usually filled with other details. I appreciate the care with which you responded.

You write: "I have not made up my mind about whether I will vote for or against adoption at General Convention in 2012".

I'm sorry, Tobias. What you write here tells me that you are quite convinced about your position and you are trying to remain open to be otherwise convinced.

Which is fine. Really. You may "still be thinking" but I think your mind is quite made up. While I hear your arguments, I strongly disagree with your position. However, that does not mean that I don't respect you for it. I trust you respect me for my equally strongly held opposite opinion.

Let me just say one thing about what you call “genetic fallacy.”

It's called "context", Tobias. It's the the same way we read scripture. We understand more fully what Jesus was reported to have said because we understand the history of the times, what was going on - the laws, the culture, the customs, the economy. We know who was there and allowed to speak and was named. We compare that to who wasn't there and not allowed to speak and are not recorded in the account.

I am aware of the "process" of how the Covenant was written and who wrote it and from whom the authors sought feedback. It's the 'process' that's flawed which has produced what is in my mind a deeply flawed document.

As one bishop once said to me, "Better to have it said, 'Bad decision' than 'Bad process'." The decision to adopt the Anglican Covenant is, in my mind a bad decision because the process through which it came to be is bad.

The description of what Anglicanism is also flawed. It doesn't resemble much of anything I know about being in The Episcopal Church and part of the Anglican Communion.

And, you are quite right: the Four Instruments of Communion are not given any new power. They are just a new innovation, coming to us as it did from The 1997 Virginia Report of the Inter-Anglican Doctrinal Commission which was presented at Lambeth 1998 and, I think, at General Convention. As I recall, it was not approved by either body, much less the entire communion.

I know this because I was there. At Lambeth. In 1998. And, again in 2008. Which is really the genesis of my deep mistrust of "The Windsor Process" and why I think it's deeply flawed. I know something of how the process works for the Primates, Archbishops and Bishops.

I can still smell the stench from here, all these years later.

I was there, at Lambeth 1998 Conference, when Lambeth Resolution 1.10 was passed.

I clearly remember the "orthodox boyz" in purple shirts coming out of the room where the bishops, archbishops and primates had been meeting, pumping their fists in the air and shouting "V.I.C.T.O.R.Y," as if it were some tailgate party for Jesus.

It was an obscene display of hubris and arrogance.

It did not escape my attention that conservative bishops from across the world had already met the year before, in Dallas in September of 1997, to develop their strategy for the upcoming 1998 Lambeth Conference.

The Dallas Statement includes assertions such as the following:
“We call upon the Lambeth Conference to empower the Primates’ Meeting to become a place of appeal for those Anglican bodies who are oppressed, marginalized, or denied faithful episcopal oversight by their own bishops. In such situations, a way must be found to provide pastoral support, oversight and formal ecclesiastical relationships for faithful people.”
(See also “The Anglican Covenant: Where It Came From” by the Rev'd Dr. Caroline Hall)

That was part of 'the process' that brought us The Anglican Covenant, Tobias. Care and concern for "the oppressed, marginalized" white, affluent, heterosexual, able-bodied well educated men - which is so sadly ironic I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Were there any LGBT people who were authors or had any input about The Anglican Covenant? The answer, of course, is 'No'.
And yet, The Anglican Covenant is all about us - LGBT people, with an undercurrent of hostility to women in the episcopacy, as we see in the 2007 Primates Statement from Dar es Salaam. 
27. A further complication is that a number of dioceses or their bishops have indicated, for a variety of reasons, that they are unable in conscience to accept the primacy of the Presiding Bishop in The Episcopal Church, and have requested the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates to consider making provision for some sort of alternative primatial ministry. At the same time we recognise that the Presiding Bishop has been duly elected in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church, which must be respected.
Indeed, what we saw at Lambeth 1998, the very next day after Lambeth Resolution 1.10 came a resolution which granted "freedom of conscience" about the ordination of women, stating that "bishops should not be compelled to ordain or license women" . Ironically, it was Archbishop Penny Jamieson of New Zealand who moved the resolution.

This is what the process has brought us. V.I.C.T.O.R.Y. for those who consider themselves "orthodox" Christians - most of whom have now already left the building.

This - THIS - is why I am so clear that the process is shot through and through with misogyny, sexism, heterosexism and homophobia. No one is immune from the toxicity.

So, we have the Anglican Covenant that will "just" allow us to continue to talk with one another, but - oopsie! - now enshrines the innovation of the "Four Instruments of Communion" and elevates a Resolution at Lambeth 1998 to a place of esteem and authority neither has ever enjoyed - nor deserve.

You'll excuse me if I see the same technique utilized at Lambeth being employed in the process to approve the Anglican Covenant and understand my deep mistrust.

Why would we adopt, endorse, subscribe or accede to such a fatally flawed, deceptive document?

My suggestion as to how to proceed? Let's study all these new innovations - The Virginia Report's instruments of communion, and The Anglican Covenant - for, oh 20, 30 years or so. You know, the way we do with all 'innovations'. Like, say, the ordination of women.

Not yes. Not no. Just "We're still thinking." After all, it's a tried and true method of the Anglican way. You know. Like you're doing. I could live with that.

I'm sure the folks who gave us B033 will be able to whip up some good Anglican Fudge that will buy us some time, allow us to stay at the table - talking to each other or past each other as we have done for years - while the rest of the church moves on to respond to the call of the Spirit as we hear it in our own way, in our own cultural context, and the voices of people who have been pushed to the margins of power and authority in the councils and corridors of the church given a place to speak. And, minister. And, lead.

A gospel image comes to mind - John 8:1-11 - Jesus and the woman 'caught' in adultery.

Just imagine The Episcopal Church as the part of the Body of Christ which is the finger of Jesus in the sand, writing something, thinking about the allegations and decisions of the rest of the crowd while they are poised to condemn and throw stones.
7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.
That works for me.
In God's house, there are many dwelling places. The Anglican Communion, as C.S. Lewis once said, is "the roomiest room in all of Western Christendom". 

Let's take those stones that have been thrown against us, asking God to forgive those who cast them, and edify and expand our spiritual home that looks like the finger of Jesus, writing in the sand, waiting for all those who are without sin to leave until it is just the accused, standing before Jesus.

May we "be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ". 

Like the angry crowd who makes righteous accusations, may we put down our stones and walk away in peace.

Like the woman charged with adultery, may we all be left to stand before Jesus so we might, "Go and sin no more."

For this is the awesome promise of Jesus, "If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it."

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Look who's (still) here

I spent the entire day with three wonderful people. We've been friends for 35 years. We ate and laughed and talked. You know. The way friends do.

We all figured, if the Rapture came today, we'd want to be "taken up" with people we love.

I understand that a volcano erupted in Iceland and there was a tragedy of suicide bombers at a hospital in Kabul, but well, for the most part, most of the rest of us are still here.

I must say, however, that most of the day, I've been thinking about the young man I met last week on Memorial Drive. Some of you may remember his story from my post "No Plan B." If you don't you can find it here.

He's the kid who was so convinced that Harold Camping was right, and the end of the world was going to be on May 21st that he came out to his family.

Well, the Rapture didn't happen today.

In my worst case scenario, I fear that the world has ended for him.

In my best case scenario, I hope that members of his family came by his apartment around 5PM to be with him and stay with him through the night. I hope they told him that they love him and that it doesn't matter that he's gay - that they still love him and they will work this out. Together. As a family.

In the end - as it was in the beginning - it's really been in God's hands.

Although, I must say that when I think of what Harold Camping has done to thousands of people around the world I get so angry I could spit sparks.

If that young man decided - or decides - to end his life because he's gay and Harold Camping's false teachings made him feel awful about that and his false prophecies did not make it any easier for him, well. . . . I'm thinking Mr. Camping will not take responsibility for any of it, anyway.

Turns out, even Harold Camping's pathetic life is in God's hands.

Judgment Day will come for him, too. I hope he's ready to answer for this.

Meanwhile, every time I've thought about that young man on Memorial Drive, I've been hearing in my head Elaine Stritch's version of Stephen Sondheim's great song from "Follies". "I'm still here."
Good times and bum times
I've seen them all and my dear
I'm still here.
Plush velvet sometimes
Sometimes just pretzels and beer
But I'm here.

I've stuffed the dailies in my shoes,
Strummed ukuleles, sung the blues
Seen all my dreams disappear
But I'm here.
I want desperately to find him and sing this song to that young man. I want to tell him that this life is far from perfect but it's still very much worth it.

I want to tell him that while I'm sure heaven will be wonderful, heaven can wait because this life is the one chance we get to be all that God made us to be and bring heaven just a bit closer to earth for ourselves and others.

I want to tell him that free will is a gift from God and eternal life is a gift from Jesus and you don't have to do anything to earn either one and anyone who tells you differently is trying to sell you a crock you don't have to buy.
I've gotten through Herbert and J. Edgar Hoover
Gee, that was fun and a half
When you've been through Herbert and J. Edgar Hoover
Anything else is a laugh.

Reefers and vino
Rest cures, religion, and pills
And I'm here
"The glory of God is (hu)man(kind) fully human." St. Ireneus reportedly said that.

While the world is truly an absurd place the most absurd thing of all is that, while there is certainly ugliness and corruption, there is so much beauty to be found that sometimes, it makes me weep.

Part of what makes me weep is knowing that the gift of this beauty comes free of charge and without any strings attached.

Yes, the world is an absurd place and sometimes we do crazy, destructive things in order to cope, but we are promised plenteous redemption and forgiveness because God loves us beyond anything we could possibly imagine.

Indeed, I think God loves us most when we fall and then pick ourselves up, dry our tears, blow our noses, pull up our socks and get back into life again.
I've run the gamut A to Z
Three cheers and damn it
C'est la vie.
I got through all of last year
And I'm here

Lord knows at least I was there
But I'm here
Look who's here
I'm still here.
I don't know where Harold Camping is tonight. Wherever he is, I hope he is on his knees, asking for forgiveness. More importantly, I hope he's got some contingent plan to help those who believed him and will need financial help.

But, I doubt it.

As for that young man on Memorial Drive, this blog's for you, hon. I hope you remember our conversation. If you don't remember anything I said, I hope you find some hope in my hope for you.

So, let's raise a glass of our favorite beverages while we whisper a prayer of thanksgiving for the gift of life and the time we have left to make a difference.

If you'd like to sing along with Elaine Stritch, here you go. She was 80 something when she performed this a few years back.

I hope to sing a version of it myself, when I'm an octogenarian. And, I'm warning all y'all right now: I'm planning to be here well past my 80th birthday.

I'm too feisty for the angels to want me and a friend of mine told me that when Satan hears my feet hit the floor when I get out of bed in the morning he curses and says, "Oh no, she's up!"

Oh, and please send up a prayer for my young man out on Memorial Drive. I'm hoping he's still here. I really am.

But in the end - as it was in the beginning - it's all in God's hands.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Justice IS Orthodox Theology

Dave Walker
There is always lots of anxiety, in varying degrees and amounts, in the systemic body known as the church. It bubbles up and surfaces from time to time, depending on the time of year.

It usually happens just around this time as rectors, wardens, vestry members and treasurers look at the calendar with furrowed brow in anticipation of the trickle of pledges that will come in over the summer months of July and August.

That anxiety will continue to bubble in the heat of the summer, finally reaching a full boil in September when Finance Committees begin to make projections about the budget for the end of the year and begin to develop a budget for the following year.

Meanwhile, Stewardship Committees begin to plan Campaigns that simultaneously encourage people to "catch up on their pledge" while trying to inspire them to increase - or at least maintain, please - their pledge for next year.

It also happens just around this time every year as newly graduating seminarians scramble to hear their first "call" to ministry - or, more specifically, to get a church or agency, school or hospital - somebody, anybody, please - to hear and validate their vocation by offering them a position on staff.

Otherwise, the canons of The Episcopal Church say that a bishop ought not ordain the candidate for transitional diaconate and priesthood. It's the final 'hoop' in a path that is so littered with "one more thing" that it looks more like a demonic obstacle course than a spiritual journey to ordained service in God's one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.

Ah, I remember it well - without a shred of fondness.

Recently, over on HOB/D, the House of Bishops/Deputies listserv, the anxiety surfaced around the reported lack of jobs for newly graduating seminarians. Dire reports are given about bishops in otherwise financially secure dioceses releasing seminarians from their canonical ties to the diocese in order to pursue their vocations wherever they can.

That anxiety has always been with us, but the anxiety now becomes part of a deeper expression of the reality that curacies - those wonderful positions of ecclesiastical internship or residency in a large congregation or cathedral under the tutelage of a wise, older priest or dean - have now become almost as scarce as hen's teeth.

Assistant Priest or Assistant-to-the-Rector positions are also drying up and in danger of extinction.

One of the "orthodox" brothers on HOB/D - a curmudgeonly old chap who can regularly be relied upon to pull my last, poor, tired nerve - generously offered his opinion that perhaps "maybe, just maybe, if TEC returned to actually growing/planting orthodox and Biblically grounded congregations - there would not be a 'shortage' of full time positions for our clergy - new and otherwise. I know that this runs counter to the agenda of what many of 'those currently in charge' are following".

Funny, I thought the "agenda" of the church - including "those currently in charge" was the orthodox idea of the "mission of the church". It's in our "Outline of Faith", sometimes known as "The Catechism". It's in the Book of Common Prayer, beginning on page 845.

On page 855, we read about the church:
Q. What is the mission of the Church?
A. The mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.

Q. How does the Church pursue its mission?
A. The Church pursues its mission as it prays and worships, proclaims the Gospel, and promotes justice, peace, and love.

Q. Through whom does the Church carry out its mission?
A. The church carries out its mission through the ministry of all its members.
Turns out, 'justice, peace and love' are thoroughly part of "orthodox theology" and are, in fact the 'agenda' of those 'currently in charge'.  And, rightly so.

Well, you know me. I had to respond:

Those churches that are doing the work of justice ARE growing and thriving. I can name at least ten of those churches without breaking a sweat. There are more. Many more.

Here's the thing: Over the last few months, I've been sitting with a few seminarians, looking over profiles of churches. Many of those profiles say the same thing.

They are a:
1. Vibrant community.
2. Which is Christ-centered.
3. And known for taking care of each other.
4. Are "warm and welcoming".
5. And have established "outreach programs".
6. And have an "enthusiastic" youth group (of mostly unknown number).
7. And have an average Sunday attendance of 100 (with 2-3 services)
They are looking for a priest who is:
1. A good listener.
2. A compassionate person.
3. An inspirational / outstanding preacher.
4. A good teacher - one who can relate to all ages of people.
5. Who can lead them into the future (which is not defined)
6. Provide them with / return them to" financial security".
7. Help them grow.
Mind you, nothing about the mission of the church. Nothing about "justice, peace and love". Nothing about the gospel. Nothing about leadership. Nothing about their new priest being a person of prayer, much less having a strong spirituality.

Nothing about their own vision of where God may be calling them. Nothing about why they want to grow - #7 - but one suspects it may have something to do with #6.

"All" they want is a pastor who can hold their hands, love them, listen to them, teach them, and/or be 'Superman/woman'.

At least, that's the way it sounds.

It's as if diocesan "deployment officers" - now known as "Transition Officers" among the many other titles in their portfolio - have been given a congregational version of one of those refrigerator magnet poetry games which they pass around to "churches in transition".

Just move around some words and phrases and make your own parish profile - or, three-fold leaflet, as seems to be currently in vogue - which contain links to the parish website which probably provide more information than many congregations realize they are making available about themselves.

Most of the seminarians I've spoken with look at these profiles, then look at me and say, "Really?" And then, they put those profiles at the bottom of the pile.

They come back to them, a few weeks later, because many of the interesting places are part time and they can't afford to work part time - or they would be willing to work part time as "Priest in Charge" for three years while the congregation gambles the rest of what's left in their endowment, but while the bishop in that diocese talks about mission and Jesus s/he doesn't have a vision, much less a plan for that congregation. 

Or, for that matter, the rest of the diocese. Just a lot of God-talk that sounds good - almost poetic - but has no schedule of implementation, no mechanism of accountability, no evaluative tool for on-going assessment and adjustment. Were that bishop a CEO of any other corporation, s/he would be fired.

So, these seminarians suck in their breath as they fill out the application for anything they can get. If they do get a job, they are willing to do whatever is necessary - or not do what is necessary to

(1) get ordained, and
(2) keep their jobs at least long enough until something else is available.

Most of those churches would never call a transitional deacon or a newly minted priest, anyway.

And, when they 'get' those jobs? Well, here are some sobering statistics:
A Duke University study found that eighty-five percent of seminary graduates entering the ministry leave within five years and 90% of all pastors will not stay to retirement (Kanipe, 2007, n.p.). This study also found that the North Georgia clergy attrition rate ran as high as 90% for those having served 20 years or more. These ministers apparently left to preserve what was left of their families, their sanity, their health and their faith (Kanipe).

According to studies by the Alban Institute and Fuller Seminary, 50% of ministers drop out of ministry within the first five years and many never to go back to church again (Meek et al., 2003,p. 340). LifeWay Christian Resources’ Department of Pastoral Ministries conducts an annual survey compiled in cooperation with Baptist State Convention Church Ministry Relations Teams and Directors of Missions. Their 1984 study on forced terminations in the Southern Baptist Convention indicated 1,056 pastors were terminated annually; four years later totals increased to 1,392 (B. Self, personal communication, March 17, Keeping Your Pastor (Stewart) Journal for the Liberal Arts and Sciences 13(3) 113
Oh, there are some outstanding churches with committed lay leadership and a vision of where they want to be and the person they need to help lead them there, but they are few and far between. Those who will take the risk of calling a newly minted priest are even more rare - if their bishop will even allow that.

What I'm saying is that the situation is both complex and complicated and we have an institutional system that is not equipped to tend to it.

I'm saying that we are trying to pour new wine into old wine skins.

I'm saying that this will not be solved by writing ten rules on the wall, following them closely, praying a prescribed way, using correct words, singing appropriate hymns and all will be well.

I'm saying that looking for simple answers/solutions to difficult questions/problems is killing the Body of Christ. We need a more systemic, holistic approach that involves collaboration among and between bishops, clergy and laity who have a vision of the Realm of God and a passion for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I'm saying that justice is orthodox theology and what we need is to be less concerned about churches and numbers and jobs and more concerned about cultivating and empowering Christians who want to live and do the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

But, I don't have any strong opinions about this.

No, none at all.